Londonderry: Catholic police officer forced to cut ties with family

Police officers Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The PSNI says the current level of Catholic recruitment seems to have stalled

A Catholic police officer serving in Londonderry has said he has had to cut ties with members of his family after choosing a career in the PSNI.

The officer said he joined the PSNI after being critical of policing in Northern Ireland as a youth.

He said he has made the right career choice despite being isolated from some of his family.

The PSNI was formed in 2001 following an overhaul of the old Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The officer, who has remained anonymous for security reasons, told BBC Radio Foyle, that he "weighed up my options" before joining the PSNI.

"I have to make sacrifices," he said.

"Once you join up as someone from Derry it is very hard to socialise with your family, or come back into the city.

"I'm sure I do face prejudice but I am thick skinned and stubborn, I don't really worry about that, I just move on."

Image caption The PSNI deputy chief constable said all options, including the return of 50-50 recruitment, should be considered

The PSNI was launched with the aim of boosting recruitment among the Catholic community.

A 50-50 recruitment policy ran for its first 10 years until 2011 during which the number of police officers from a Catholic background increased from 8% to 31%.

But earlier this year Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin expressed concern at the levels of Catholic recruitment in the past few years.

The Derry officer said the fear of attack remained a constant concern for potential Catholic recruits.

"The issue we have here is people are afraid, lots of people talk to us and say they want to do the job, but they are afraid of the comeback, with their family living in Derry," he said.

Image caption The families of two police officers were the target of hoax bomb alerts in Londonderry earlier this year.

He added: "When we are out there you have to be switched on, ready to react, things happen in a heartbeat, and you have always to be prepared for that."

In May dissident republicans were blamed for a series of hoax bomb alerts targeting the families of PSNI officers in the city.

The Derry officer said the possibility of an attack on his family does cross his mind.

"I have been fortunate that my family has never been targeted, but that is not to say ever. It is part of the reason why you have to cut ties, not socialise with them or call home," he said.

The officer said Northern Ireland's political stalemate does not help with issues around policing.

"If they can not sort it out at Stormont, how can we ever expect to sort it out here at grass roots level?"

He said challenging the attitudes of young people could affect change around the perceptions of policing.

"Young ones today still have the same attitude that older people have," he said.

"As police officers we get it from both side, in terms of hearing 'you are always picking on us, never on the other side'.

"You have to start integrating schools, because at the end of the day we all support the same teams, like the same things, watch the same television programmes. The only difference is if you go to a church or chapel, and that shouldn't be a major issue," he added.

The PSNI officer was speaking to BBC Radio Foyle as part of a series looking at the challenges facing the police in Northern Ireland's north west.

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